Speaker: King faced darkness but kept the flame alive

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 16, 2007

By Michelle G. Lyerly

Kannapolis Citizen

Although he is no longer with us, the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives on.

On Saturday, Young Women of Promise and Bethel Baptist Church Ministries hosted the third annual “Keepers of the Dream” Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Prayer Breakfast at Bethel Family Life Center in Kannapolis honoring those individuals and organizations in the community who have worked to keep the dream alive.

Eddie Lloyd Kornegay of Chicago, Kinston native and theologian/scholar, delivered the keynote address based on Acts 2:1-3, examining how King was a torchbearer keeping the flame of Pentecost alive “where the terror of injustice seems to spread darkness over the world …

“Pentecost has not passed us by,” Kornegay said. “We are required to be prophetic in speaking truth to power.”

During his address, Kornegay spoke about the dark times in King’s life when he was facing death threats and felt like giving up.

“Lord, I’m down here trying to do what’s right,” King said while sitting at the kitchen table. “But, Lord I must confess I am weak now.”

Suddenly, King heard the voice of Jesus telling him to go on, and all uncertainty disappeared. “Do not lose momentum, for God is with you. Have no fear, face the world and hold the torch high,” Kornegay charged the attendees.

Kornegay, a graduate of N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro holds a master of divinity from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and a master of sacred theology from Chicago Theological Seminary, where he is a Ph.D. candidate. He is a professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago.

In spite of all his academic success, Kornegay, like King, has seen his own share of trials and heartache, he said. Having lost his job with UPS, Kornegay found himself homeless, sleeping in a car in Atlanta.

“It (the experience) propelled me to where I am now,” Kornegay said.

Five years later, he was working in a homeless shelter for men in Chicago.

“My story is no different than that of those I was attempting to assist,” Kornegay said, adding that his story gives authenticity to his message. “I ride on the shoulders of those who still live with their backs against the wall.”

Theresa Williams-Bethea, Young Women of Promise founder, thinks the prayer breakfast is “a great opportunity each year to recognize individuals in the community.

“The people we recognize are not necessarily people you read about in the paper, but they’re making a difference in the community,” she said.

The list of honorees included Kannapolis community leader Thomas E. Allison, pastors Josie S. Caldwell and Phyllis F. Gill of Sister 2 Sister Fellowship; children’s activist Sgt. Betty M. Crump; Mary-Margaret Flynn of CVAN; Lynne Scott Safrit of Castle & Cooke; James and Linda Sullivan of Exquisite Catering and the Guardian Ad Litem child court advocate program; and the program’s district administrator, Jeanne A. Dixon.

“It’s good to continue to come to the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration each year so that our hearts will be encouraged to do what we need to do in order to keep his dream alive,” said Ola Anderson of Concord, a nurse at the Hefner VA Medical Center in Salisbury.

“I certainly want to do my part to be a positive role model to all whom I come in contact with and in all the things I say and do. I pray that the Lord will help us to do more than dream,” she said.

In spite of being constantly on the road, David Goodes, a truck driver for Thomasville Furniture, makes it a point to attend the prayer breakfast every year.

“Keeping the communication lines open; that’s really the key,” said Goodes about what King’s dream means to him.

Master of ceremonies for the event was the Rev. Donald E. Anthony of Grace Lutheran Church in Concord. The invocation was delivered by the Rev. Brian J. Pierce of Bethel Baptist Church.

Ella Mae Compey Small, Concord councilwoman for District 3, offered greetings from elected officials.

“I trust each of you will be caught up in the dream,” Small said.

Bianca House of Young Women of Promise reminded everyone that if King were still alive, he would be 78 years old. Pierce offered thanks for the meal.

A Unity Prayer Service featuring area religious leaders followed the meal. Anthony delivered a prayer for the community: “Make us ever mindful of the strength we have as we work together.”

“When we pray for our youth, we are really praying for forgiveness,” said Barbara Thiede, Rabbinic Intern from Havurat Olam.

The Rev. Coy Privette prayed for the state of the nation — the Bible “has already given us the prescription we need,” he said, referring to a familiar passage in Isaiah.

The Rev. Steve Ayers of McGill Baptist delivered a prayer for unity. “Father of us all, you have many children,” Ayers said.

After Kornegay spoke, a video saluted the honorees, delivered by House Productions.

“I believe Dr. King would be proud of all of us sitting here today,” said Dixon as she received her award.

Commenting on Kornegay, award recipient Allison added, “I truly enjoyed the speaker for today. I love to hear someone say something. You said something this morning.”

The event concluded with acknowledgements from event coordinator Vanessa Reid-House and a word from the corporate sponsor Philip Morris USA. Anthony delivered the closing benediction.

Reid-House, who, according to Williams-Bethea, organized the event “almost single-handedly,” thanked everyone who made the event a success.

“A lot (of people) adjusted their schedules so they could be here today,” Reid-House said, adding that former event organizer Williams-Bethea has been “a great model to follow.”

Pearl Asbury, mother of award recipient Dixon and a retired nursing assistant, considers it an honor to attend this event.

“It means continuing the dream on a small scale that continues throughout,” said Asbury. “We don’t just celebrate it today.”

Robert Mathis, 72, a Concord councilman of 16 years who was alive during the King years, said he was thankful to all who help keep the dream of King alive.

“Spiritually the prayers were the foundation” of his dream, said Mathis, who expressed genuine concern that “the dream has not been transferred to the next generation.”

Dynasty Foggie, 5, was deeply saddened when she asked her cousin Alicia Broadway why the main honoree for the event — King — was not present.

“I had to tell her he’s not alive,” said Broadway. Dynasty said she was was “sad.”

Other sponsors included the Concord-Kannapolis Ministerial Association.

Included among the table sponsors were the area Ministerial Association, Grace Lutheran Church of Concord, Hospice and Palliative Care of Cabarrus County and the NAACP-Cabarrus County Branch. Breakfast was provided by Exquisite Catering of Concord.

Contact Michelle Lyerly at 704-932-3336 or news@kannapoliscitizen.com.